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Drama desensitized


January 11, 2012
Carrie Olson , The Daily Freeman Journal

Comedian Dane Cook once joked about car accidents and what bystanders hoped would happen in the situation. While in your house, you hear a screech and wait to hear the crash. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't - but secretly, you hope to hear it. It's uncomfortably funny to hear him say that because it's not completely true ... or is it?

Drama is a part of life, is it not? How boring would life be if you went through the mundane with only good news being reported? "Kittens born." "The sun shines again today."

"That's not true!" you reply, shocked that someone would even think bad news could be positive.

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I'm not saying it is, but dramatic situations heighten emotions - which can, at times, be somewhat thrilling. And in our consumer-frenzied world, we need excitement. Most of us can't sit still for a second without reaching for our computers or phones to look up Facebook or troll the Internet. Who broke up with who? What celebrity went to jail yesterday? Bad for a certain few, but hot gossip for a larger majority.

And if we didn't enjoy tumultuous emotions, movies in the scary and intense categories wouldn't be so heavily watched.

So it doesn't come as a big surprise that television-viewing audiences love reality shows - especially ones that pack a punch, literally.

Whether it's a show that highlights extreme sports accidents or swamp people, we gobble that stuff up.

Because it's unusual. It's different and far from our own reality. And that's why it's sooo good.

Perhaps that's why "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" has seen a climb in its ratings. According to the Nielsen stats, its season two premiere was up 42 percent from last year at 2.2 million viewers.

Oh sure, there's yelling, screaming and family ups-and-downs galore. But what really put the "icing on the cake," is the fact that a cast member's husband committed suicide before the show opened for the new season. It doesn't get more real than that.

After the news of his death, fans of the show peppered blogs with comments such as "I hope they don't cancel the show" and "They better keep the parts with him in it." Really? That's what our consumer-culture cares about? That the show keeps it "real" by showing the nitty-gritty details that lead up to his demise?

It's disgusting, but true. And although Bravo, the television channel that airs the reality show, says that they are just showing what they taped - it's hard not to think that they are capitalizing on this person's death. After each episode, a teaser shows squabbling between the couple and the wife's black eye at a dinner party. Enticing little appetizers that say, "Watch the train wreck, it's going to be sooo shocking."

Why are we enthralled with such horrible subjects? Perhaps its due to our culture's desensitization. In the '90s, we were introduced to "The Jerry Springer Show" where people threw chairs at each other and swore up a storm. That was different and fun. Maury Povich treated viewers to finding out if a guy was a deadbeat dad by revealing paternity test results. A private and anguished moment to share with the entire world And then came the video games. Instead of Mario, why don't we run people over in cars and play war games that pit 3-D-like characters against each other?

It seems that we crave tragedy and feast on other's pain more and more each year. What next step can we take to calm this thrill? Because the level we are at won't sustain us for long and we will thirst for something more terrifying and "real."

We have become okay watching others behave like animals, so is it that far-fetched to think that watching gladiator events could be in our the future? Bring back the coliseums, live gruesome entertainment for the masses. That might sound like a dramatic conclusion, but is it? Crazy and disgusting sounding now, but give it a few years and maybe it won't sound so nutty.



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